Leaf from an Antiphonary:
Initial H: The Nativity, about 1480
South Germany, Augsburg(?)
Ink, tempera, and gold on vellum
The Jeanne Miles Blackburn Collection [Cat. no. 79]
The peacock in the lower right margin is used here as a symbol of immortality. In the ancient world the peacock's flesh was thought to be incorruptible-to never decay-and was thus an appropriate symbol for the Virgin Mary who was taken bodily into heaven. The peacock is often used as an accessory illustration for representations of the Nativity. The text for this leaf is the first matins response for Christmas Day and begins Hodie nobis celorum rex (On this day the King of Heaven).
The leaf survives with two known sister leaves with text and illustrations that refer to St. Clare, who was widely venerated during the Middle Ages. She is closely associated with St. Francis, who installed her with a group of Benedictine nuns in a community at Assisi. Francis drew up a rule and an austere way of life for the nuns who afterwards became known as the Poor Clares. The saint died in 1253 and was canonized in 1255. The prominent references to Clare in the parent manuscript to which this leaf belongs indicate that it was made for a religious community belonging to that order, perhaps in Augsburg or elsewhere in South Germany.